Analysis: Opposition extremists seek to plunge Haiti into deep political gridlock

Published on by Joe Colas (author)

Demonstrations, December 2014, Port-au-Prince (photo: )
Demonstrations, December 2014, Port-au-Prince

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (HCNN) -- Radical opposition parties have been organizing a series of street demonstrations to call for the early departure of the Caribbean nation's elected leader and the resignation of his Prime minister, in a move widely perceived as a ploy to destabilize the government and plunge the country into even deep political gridlock.

Haitian political hardliners seek to overthrow the country's legitimate government as part of a plan to set up a de facto provisional government to replace Haitian president Michel Martelly and Prime minister Laurent Lamothe -- a move moderate political actors say could only further jeopardize the democratic process, further delay the holding of free and fair elections and create instability.

About 3,000 rallied for an anti-government protest on Friday and fewer took to the streets of the capital on Saturday to demand the departure of government authorities as the opposition movement seems running out of steam.

"At the height of the protest on Friday, demonstrators were between 3,000 and 4,000 people, but further they dropped to about 1,000 and 1,500," Haitian Police Chief for the West region, Vladimir Paraison, told HCNN on Saturday.

"The protesters were fewer today (Saturday), compared to yesterday, but we had to disperse a small group that sought to trespass the limits established for the protest near the presidential palace," said Commissioner Paraison. 

Marchers brandished posters of former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide who leads the radical Lavalas Family party, responsible for most of the unrest and efforts to topple the government.

Martelly and Lamothe have repeatedly called on a group of recalcitrant opposition senators who have been blocking for about 9 months now the approval of amendments to an existing electoral law, which is a prerequisite to the holding of a crucial and long-overdue legislative and local vote to elect two thirds of the 30-member Senate, to renew the entire Lower Chamber and hundreds of local government entities.

"I cannot understand that senators, who have the responsibility to pass the electoral law, have categorically refused to do their job, but instead take to the streets to call for election," said Kedlaire Augustin, a spokesperson for the Prime minister's office.

"You know that the election cannot be held without the law. So, if you really want election, just pass the law," said Augustin. "But I believe all they really want is chaos, instability and a complete upheaval of everything that has been done," he told HCNN.

Several opposition lawmakers and civilians, working for them,  have been seen in possession of short and long weapons during street demonstrations in the capital.

Senator Jean Joel Joseph (right) with armed civilian during demonstration

Gunfire erupted last month during an anti-government protest in the district of Delmas where 3 people were wounded.

However, extremist opposition party leaders and activists, including pro-Aristide senator John Joel Joseph, rushed to claim that 5 protesters had been killed by henchmen in the pay of the government . But later they said they were mistaken because only 3 people were shot dead instead of 5. 

Then a couple of days later opposition march organizers said that the right figure was 2 deaths, before saying shortly after that they could confirm only one fatality, for whom no specific detail can be provided, while no parent or relative ever came out to claim the loss of a loved one.

An investigation on the violent incident is underway, but many believe the shooting was orchestrated within opposition sectors as they seek to galvanize popular support and sentiment of revolt against the current government they are striving to bring down.

President Martelly has engaged in a series of discussions with different political and civil society sectors to try to find a solution to the political impasse and a special presidential commission has been appointed to provide recommendations in terms of the steps that should be taken solve the crisis.

However, many believe that even the most balanced, logic and comprehensive proposal to help put an end to the electoral problem, would be rejected by opposition hardliners if it does not include the early departure of president Martelly whose constitutional 5-year term comes to an end in 2016.

By the second Monday of January 2015, Parliament will be totally dysfunctional because the term of members of the Lower Chamber will have expired, and only 10 Senators will remain in office, while 16 will be required to hold a session.

In the face of such a situation, President Martelly may have issue executive orders to declare elections, since extremist Senators have blocked for about 9 months now the adoption of a legislation to facilitate the organization of the balloting.

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